After tragedies like mass shootings, people often ask what steps are being taken in our own state to prevent these tragic acts of violence.
Gun control and mental health issues are typically at the forefront of those conversations.
Lisa Evans is the Director of Crisis Stabilization Unit and a Clinical Psychologist with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She said people often bring up mental illness after tragic shootings.
“People are just looking for answers and reasons, maybe even quick fixes. It’s a hard conversation, I think people misunderstand mental illness and behavioral health disorders. They connect it with violence,” Evans said.
Evans said discussing mental health shouldn’t be a rare thing.
“We should all be comfortable with asking our friends and family how each other are doing. When you see somebody being isolated or withdrawing or not acting like they use to, reach out,” Evans said.
The unit has been open for almost a year after Act 423 was passed and in 2017. So far, it has served over 600 people.
“They’re pilot programs to try to connect mental health services and law enforcement so that officers who encounter people with behavioral health issues on the street, instead of having to arrest them or take them to jail or take them to the hospital where they get a lot of expensive services, we can get them treated and stabilized very quickly,” Evans said.
While this clinic is available to serve people in 7 counties, State Senator (District 32) Will Bond said more needs to be done to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“We have a tendency to focus on these things after these horrific tragedies and we have to look at these issues differently. We’ve got to get out of being worried about political safety and worry about public safety,” Bond said.
Senator Greg Leding sponsored the Arkansas Red Flag law last legislative session which would restrict firearms from people who pose a risk to the public. Although it failed, Bond hopes the conversation won’t die.
“I’m a big believer in hunting and second amendment rights, but also we have to use common sense to address these issues. These are public safety issues and we just haven’t done enough yet in Arkansas and across the nation,” Bond said.